Government is the set of rules and laws adults create to make society work for everyone. In the United States, the government is made up of a legislative branch (Congress), an executive branch (the President and his Cabinet) and a judicial branch that makes sure all of those laws are fair and equal. It is also responsible for regulating access to common goods such as wildlife, public land and water, which are all in limited supply. Government also solves collective action problems that cannot be solved by the market. Governments penalize industries that pollute the air or water, for example, on behalf of people who can’t take them to court themselves.
One of the most important things government does is to ensure that ordinary citizens can have their needs and opinions heard by those in power. This is the main reason why Western democracies, like the United States, allow people to vote on who should run their government. Governments also provide services that citizens can’t or don’t want to buy on their own, such as education, health care and police and fire protection.
Another role of government is to protect people from harm and provide a safety net for those who are less fortunate or unable to help themselves, such as the welfare state in some countries. Governments can also be a source of jobs, as they hire more people than private industry does, and many governments offer benefits such as pensions or health insurance.
Some political scientists have tried to classify different types of government. One important division is based on whether the power to control the government lies with one person (an autocracy), a select group of people (an oligarchy) or the whole population (a democracy). Some experts argue that this classification doesn’t work, however, as all of these different forms of government are derived from socio-economic movements.
The monetary role of government is to raise and spend money, which it does through taxes and tariffs. Governments may also borrow money to fill gaps in their budget. Government policies also affect the economy by defining and protecting property rights, attempting to make markets more competitive, and redistributing income.
Governments may also have moral and ethical roles in a society, such as supporting egalitarianism or the idea that all people are equally valuable. Governments can support these ideas by implementing social programs, such as providing healthcare for the poor, housing for the homeless and schooling for all children. In addition, they can support these ideals by enforcing laws that limit discrimination and protect freedom of speech and the press. Governments can also support these moral and ethical goals by putting a ban on smoking in public places, for example. Governments can even help solve problems that are too large for individuals to solve themselves, such as the need for a national defense or environmental protection.